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"The April rain, the April rain,
Comes slanting down in fitful showers,
Then from the furrow shoots the grain,
And banks are fledged with nestling flowers;
And in grey shawl and woodland bowers
The cuckoo through the April rain
Calls once again."

Mathilde Blind, April Rain
Learn English in April

Commonly misused words

mheredgemheredge Posts: 47,495 ✭✭✭✭
There are many words that are spelled or pronounced the same but have different meanings. Sometimes even the most highly educated English speakers get tripped up.

Harvard University Steve Pinker, a linguist and cognitive scientist has compiled a list of the 58 most commonly misused words.

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2UQeD4/:1q!YupQ$W:[email protected]_/www.attn.com/stories/13782/most-commonly-misused-english-words

Adverse: Unfavorable or harmful; commonly confused with "averse," which means disinclined.

Appraise: To evaluate the value of something; commonly confused with "apprise," which means "to inform."

As far as: The same; commonly confused with the phrase "as for," which means "with regard to."

Begs the question: Implies a conclusion that isn't supported by evidence; commonly confused with "raises the question."

Bemused: Bewildered; commonly confused with "amused," which means entertained.

Cliché: A noun; commonly misused as an adjective.

Credible: Believable; commonly confused with "gullible."

Criteria: A plural word; commonly misused as a singular word. The singular is "criterion."

Data: A plural word; commonly used as a singular noun.

Depreciate: To decrease in value; commonly confused with "deprecate," which means to disapprove of.

Dichotomy: A division between two things; commonly confused with "a difference."

Disinterested: Unbiased; commonly confused with "uninterested."

Enervate: To cause someone to feel drained; commonly misused to mean "to energize."

Enormity: Extremely bad or morally wrong; commonly confused with "enormous."

Flaunt: To show off; commonly confused with "flout," which means "to openly disregard."

Flounder: To struggle helplessly; commonly confused with "founder," which means to fill with water and

Fortuitous: To happen by chance; commonly confused with "fortunate."

Fulsome: Excessively flattering; commonly misused to mean "full or copious."

Homogeneous: Pronounced "home-genius." The word is commonly misspelled as "homogenous."

Hone: Sharpen or refine; commonly misused in the phrase "home in on," which means to move toward a goal or target.

Hot button: An emotionally or politically charged issue; commonly confused with "hot topic."

Hung: Suspended; commonly misused to mean "suspended from the neck until dead."

Intern (verb): To detain or imprison; commonly confused with "inter," which means to bury a body.

Ironic: To happen in a way that's opposite to expectations; commonly misused to mean "unfortunate."

Irregardless: Not a word, but commonly confused with "regardless."

Literally: A fact; commonly confused with "figuratively," or metaphorically.

Luxuriant: Rich or lush; commonly confused with "luxurious."

Meretricious: To appear attractive but lack value or sincerity; commonly confused with "meritorious," which means to deserve praise.

Mitigate: Alleviate; commonly confused with "militate," which means to be "a powerful or conclusive factor in preventing."

New Age: Spiritualistic and holistic; commonly misused to mean modern or futuristic.

Noisome: Smelly; commonly misused to mean noisy."

Nonplussed: Surprised or confused; commonly misused to mean bored.

Opportunism: Exploiting opportunities; commonly misused to mean creating opportunities.

Parameter: A variable; commonly misused to mean a condition or limit.

Phenomena: A plural noun; commonly misused as a mass noun.

Politically correct: Inoffensive or appropriate; commonly misused to mean fashionable.

Practicable: To be able to put together successfully; commonly confused with "practical."

Proscribe: To condemn; commonly confused with "prescribe," which means to recommend.

Protagonist: An active or lead character; commonly confused with "proponent."

Refute: To prove something false; commonly misused to mean "to allege to be false."

Reticent: Restrained, or shy; commonly confused with "reluctant."

Shrunk, sprung, stunk, and sunk: All of these words are used in the past participle and are commonly misused in the past tense.

Simplistic: Overly simple; commonly misused to mean "pleasantly simple."

Staunch: Loyal; commonly confused with "stanch," which means to stop the flow.

Tortuous: Twisting; commonly confused with "torturous."

Unexceptionable: Not open to objection; commonly confused with "unexceptional," which means ordinary.

Untenable: Not sustainable; commonly misused to mean painful or unbearable.

Urban legend: A false and widely circulated story; commonly misused to mean "someone who is legendary in a city."

Verbal: In linguistic form; commonly confused with "spoken."

An effect: An influence. To effect: To put something into effect. To affect: To influence or fake.

To lie (as in "lies, lay, has lain"): To recline. To lay (as in "lays, laid, has laid"): To set down. To lie (as in "lies, lied, has lied"): To fib.

One reason why English can be difficult is because so many of its words are derived from other languages such as French, Latin, and Greek. Then unlike these other languages, the rules of English also been evolving over time, resulting in spelling mutations and sometimes confusing grammatical guidelines.

"Unless you’ve been brought up speaking English, how can you possibly begin to learn all these oddities? It’s little wonder that people trying to learn English end up feeling confused."


  • takafromtokyotakafromtokyo Posts: 2,966 Inactive
    I think I misuse a lot of words and phrases. The problem is, I don't realize that I did it unless someone corrects me. I'd appreciate it if you'd do that for me when it's not causing you too much trouble.
  • mheredgemheredge Posts: 47,495 ✭✭✭✭
    You don't do this often @takafromtokyo. I will try to look out for little mistakes.

    The problem is, I don't realize that I've done it did unless someone corrects me.
  • takafromtokyotakafromtokyo Posts: 2,966 Inactive
    edited January 2017

    Thanks, Marriane, for your correction. The tenses are always confusing. Even though I've been studying English for more than thirty years now, I still don't really have confidence.

    If I say "I don't realize that I did it", what does the sentence really mean? How does it sound to you? The problem I have here is I don't understand correctly the difference between "I made a mistake" and "I've made a mistake".

    Do they really sound different to native English speakers like you?
  • anjalianjali Posts: 3
    Thnku ...
  • mheredgemheredge Posts: 47,495 ✭✭✭✭
    edited January 2017
    Don't is in the present tense so that means that now, I do not realise that I did whatever in the past.

    If you are talking about the past, you could say I didn't realise that I had done something....
  • ankitjainankitjain Posts: 21 ✭✭
    I always get confused between affect and effect. Whenever I write a sentence with either of these words I have to confirm once if I have written the correct word.
  • mheredgemheredge Posts: 47,495 ✭✭✭✭
    edited February 2017
    Usually affect means to influence something while effect is used for the something that was influenced. However the difference is quite subtle @ankitjain.

    Post edited by Teach on
  • NeuroMedNeuroMed Posts: 18 Inactive
    This is a great and interesting list, I've been misusing a lot of this list's words, as "as for", data and criteria. :/. Thanks! It's very useful.
  • TeachTeach Your Teacher HomePosts: 10,614 mod
    edited February 2017
    People quite often "misuse" these words deliberately.


    How about these @mheredge?

    Inspired by @Dora's Phrasal Verb challenge:-

    Just for fun I would like to ask what difference there is (if any) between:-

    1. Log in to Facebook.
    2. Log into Facebook.
    3. Login to Facebook.
  • mohit_singhmohit_singh Posts: 2,182 ✭✭✭✭
    I found a new expression from the @Lynne's shared site.

    Average joe and jane! Does it mean Average man and women? @mheredge
  • mohit_singhmohit_singh Posts: 2,182 ✭✭✭✭
    Lynne said:

    People quite often "misuse" these words deliberately.


    How about these @mheredge?

    Inspired by @Dora's Phrasal Verb challenge:-

    Just for fun I would like to ask what difference there is (if any) between:-

    1. Log in to Facebook.
    2. Log into Facebook.
    3. Login to Facebook.</blockq

    I thought every term is same. But when you put three phrases together.Now,
    It's totally bewildering for me!

  • filauziofilauzio Genoa ( Italy )Posts: 2,098 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I think I have so often used either the word ' disinterested ' or the other one ' uninterested ' meaning not caring of whatever; I thought so far that the prefixes 'dis' and 'un' both meant 'not'.
    However, probably the prefix ' dis' has more to do with a lack than with a negative statement.
    From which it probably comes the meaning of an absence of interest in getting an advantage or profit, absence of prejudice in judging whatever; definetly an unbiased behaviour.
    So I could say that I hope people will be disinterested in talking to people who misuse English words as me, and that they aren't uninterested in correcting me too.
This discussion has been closed.